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Studio D Conference Table, Part 4 – Butterfly Inlays

May 12, 2015

The joinery is tight and I know I used enough glue and clamping pressure, but… it never hurts to add a little extra insurance. So before I moved on to preparing the top for finish, I added five more bog oak butterfly inlays along the seam where I joined the two planks.

Normally, I do my inlays by hand. I like the detail and precision and the presence required for such work. It is one of the woodworking techniques I love doing the most, whether it is an escutcheon or a butterfly key or a semiprecious cabochon in the lid of a box.

As I mentioned in Part 3 of this series, these keys are a full ¾” thick. Because of that, I decided to speed up the process of waste removal with my small Bosch palm router, one of the few hand tools with tails I still own, and a ¼” spiral upcut bit. I also used a powered drill for the initial waste removal since I still need to clean up most of my brace bits.

For a slight change of pace, I’m going to let the pictures do much of the talking…

Place the butterfly in position. I keep it in place with double-sided carpet tape.

Place the butterfly in position. I keep it in place with double-sided carpet tape.

Trace the outline of the butterfly with a marking knife. Then use a putty knife to slowly and safely pry up the inlay. Remove the carpet tape.

Trace the outline of the butterfly with a marking knife. Then use a putty knife to slowly and safely pry up the inlay. Remove the carpet tape.

Similar to when making a saw cut, use a paring chisel to take out a small wedge along the inside of the outline. I think this helps to preserve a clean outline.

Similar to when making a saw cut, use a paring chisel to take out a small wedge along the inside of the outline. I think this helps to preserve a clean outline.

For a visual aid, I use a soft white artist's pencil to highlight the outline.

For a visual aid, I use a soft white artist’s pencil to highlight the outline.

Remove waste with a drill bit (hand drill, corded drill, brace, whatever your poison).

Remove waste with a drill bit (hand drill, corded drill, brace, whatever your poison).

Since I'm using a palm router for the bulk of the remaining waste removal, I wanted to create a spot to drop the bit in.

Since I’m using a palm router for the bulk of the remaining waste removal, I wanted to create a spot to drop the bit in.

I did all of these at the same time; that way, I could get back to listening to music as quickly as possible.

I did all of these at the same time; that way, I could get back to listening to music as quickly as possible.

Back to chisels - chopping and paring - to clean up the remaining waste.

Back to chisels – chopping and paring – to clean up the remaining waste.

I added a very slight chamfer to the bottom edge of the butterfly.

I added a very slight chamfer to the bottom edge of the butterfly.

A block of wood and my old Lignum Vitae joiner's mallet easily seated each butterfly.

A block of wood and my old Lignum Vitae joiner’s mallet easily seated each butterfly.

A flushcut saw removes whatever is left sticking up. BONUS: I ended up with 8 small butterfly inlays I can use in a future project!

A flush cut saw removes whatever is left sticking up. BONUS: I ended up with 8 small butterfly inlays I can use in a future project!

If you are going to save your bog oak dust for tinctures and ointments, be sure and properly prepare the blade of your flush cut saw before use.

If you are going to save your bog oak dust for tinctures and ointments, be sure and properly prepare the blade of your flush cut saw before use. In the second-to-last inlay, I had a minor chisel bruise along the near left edge and a small gap on the near end. After finish, neither was noticeable.

In order to avoid making the table look like a big zipper, I didn’t want to space the butterfly inlays out evenly along the entire length.

The end result...

The end result…

Though it might not look like it, there is actual method to how I positioned them. I started at the far end, laying out some thin hardboard templates of the inlays so I could figure out the best placement. I decided to place one 5” from the far end of the inner live edge. To balance that, I put the farthest butterfly 5” from the end of the board. That left a space of 12.5” between them.

I mirrored that layout on the near end – 5” of space, butterfly inlay, 12.5” of space, butterfly inlay. For the middle butterfly, I measured out 5” from the near end of the inner live edge. Since that black bog oak inlay would be highlighted by the sapwood, it was the most important one to do as cleanly as possible.

I like the contrast between the center butterfly, highlighted in sapwood, and the butterflies in the knots, which you almost don't even know are there.

I like the contrast between the center butterfly, highlighted in sapwood, and the butterflies in the knots, which you almost don’t even know are there.

The end result is, I think, a good layout. While you might not see the composition when you look at it, your brain probably does, and it lets you know it is a pleasing aesthetic feature. And I know I have five additional aids in making sure the seam between those two planks will always stay nice and tight.

Studio D Conference Table, Part 3

May 12, 2015

Before I glued up the top, there were a few things I wanted to do first – fill in large voids with epoxy, add some butterfly inlays or keys to two knots and a split, even out any discrepancies in the thickness of the two planks, and then get a few coats of finish on the underside of the table.

There were several “firsts” with this project and one of them was using epoxy to fill a void. It wasn’t terribly difficult, though at times it felt like I was trying to fill the Grand Canyon because of how much epoxy I was pouring into the larger voids. But I guess it was all spreading out and stabilizing the knot, so I’m not really complaining.

Filling the voids...

Filling the voids…

For good measure, though, I inlaid a few butterfly inlays or keys through the knots and a split that was coming off of one of them. I used kiln-dried bog oak from Ireland. I’m pretty sure I didn’t need to inlay these a full ¾” deep, but I was going to be doing a series of them later where I did want the extra depth, so I figured I’d just set my tools up once and be done with it. Part 4 of this series will outline my technique for adding a butterfly inlay, so you just get a picture now.

Testing the fit before gluing the first butterfly key into place...

Testing the fit before gluing the first butterfly key into place…

Or maybe two pictures… Chris Schwarz recently posted about adding butterfly keys to a table top. He said he uses dovetail angles for his butterfly angles. Personally, I use the angle of the side bevels of my Lie-Nielsen 3/8” chisel to determine the angles of the inlays.

Paring the waste...

Paring the waste…

Kidding. That was just fortuitous; it made cleaning the corners up very easy. No, I used graph paper and laid out 1:8, 1:6, and 1:4 ratio angles and decided I preferred the steeper 1:4 ratio, so that is what I used. The inlays are just about 3” long or so; I’d read in several places that anything longer than that started to compromise the strength of the key. Since mine are more structural than decorative, I didn’t want to do that.

I didn’t take any pictures of the next part, but in order to make sure the top side of the two planks was coplanar, I used a biscuit jointer (also borrowed from Michael) to cut about six biscuit slots in both boards, referencing the top side each time. I made sure to avoid the last eight inches of either end of the planks so I didn’t cut through a biscuit when I was trimming the ends. This was my first time using a biscuit joiner, but I’d seen enough examples of that happening to other people and I’d rather learn from their mistakes than make my own!

When I flipped the planks over, I inserted the biscuits (dry) and clamped up the top. That left my top (relatively) flush and I could see where I needed to work the underside. I thought that was a rather brilliant idea, myself, and it really paid off. Once I had the underside prepped, I went ahead and applied a few coats of finish to it before I flipped them back over.

The underside received a few coats of finish before I glued it all up.

The underside received a few coats of finish before I glued it all up.

Throughout this build, I’ve put a lot of time, thought, and consideration into decisions when it mattered the most, especially when I was working on something that would normally be quite stressful. Having spent several hours making sure the two planks joined together with only the lightest of clamping pressure, aligning the top with biscuits, and adding several clamping areas during the modification of my “lie” edges, the glue-up was really not that stressful.

One thing I did to aid in clamping, aside from creating flat clamping spots when I was working the live edges, was to add cork-faced poplar clamping pads to all of my clamps. Being softer than walnut, I hoped the poplar would crush before it distorted my table edges. I also got a chance to use some new-to-me antique pipe clamps I picked up for a song off of Craig’s List last summer.

I love these antique pipe clamps!

I love these antique pipe clamps!

I love the robust acme threads and the heft of the cast handle. To adjust, you pull up on the cam lever on the movable face and slide it forwards or backwards. Solid, easy, strong; well worth the $25 I paid for the pair. If I had my druthers, all of my larger clamps would be antiques like this. (If you happen to know where any more are available, pass that information along to me! They’re easy to ship if you don’t include the pipe!)

So, anyway, I clamped up the top. Because of the width of the boards, I really didn’t need that many clamps to exert the proper pressure across the joint. Nothing special in the steps, though – clamps laid out under the table ready to go, lots of glue, proper pressure starting from the middle and going out, you know the drill. I got good glue beads with moderate clamping pressure. And, sure enough, the poplar crushed and gave before the walnut in almost every case; I did have to touch up one spot where the clamp did a tiny bit of damage. I kept them on for a full 24 hours, just to be sure. 

You can't easily see them, but I had three clamps on the underside, as well.

You can’t easily see them, but I had three clamps on the underside, as well.

Once the top was glued up, I was able to cut the ends square. The entire process took me about an hour. No, I didn’t do it with a 20 tpi razor saw. I used blue painter’s tape to lay out various options – cutting to keep as much of the top as possible, even it if wasn’t square vs. cutting it straight across vs. any other configuration I could come up with – before I made any cuts. Again, the time was well-spent. I ultimately decided to cut them straight across; I figured there was enough “natural” going on with the table already that it needed to have some precision aspects to it, as well.

Hand plane accuracy, Level 2!

Hand plane accuracy, Level 2!

When I cut the ends flush, I was very pleased to see this gap-free seam. This is the cut straight off of the Festool TS 55, if you’ve had some interest in buying one but were still undecided. Now that I don’t have a tablesaw, it is something I might consider buying in the future.

Studio D Conference Table, Part 2

May 11, 2015

As I indicated in Part 1, one of the biggest challenges throughout the entire project was just trying to manipulate the large and unwieldy slabs of wood by myself. I took full advantage of any bit of knowledge I’d learned over the years – I used luan ply and cardboard when I needed to slide them and built a long, low trolley (like a mechanic’s trolley) using a piece of 2×12 and some caster wheels for when sliding them wasn’t enough.

Once I had the planks in my possession, the first order of business was to clean off three years of barn dust, grime, and grit. An hour or two on a chilly spring morning with a stiff nylon brush gave me a better look at some of the figure and grain pattern in the planks.

Cleaned up nicely with a bit of elbow grease...

Cleaned up nicely with a bit of elbow grease…

Then I had to load them back up into my car to get them to WunderWoods, where my friend Scott has a 37” wide belt sander he calls his “friend maker”. (For the record, I was friends with him before he got the wide belt sander. And I paid him for time on the machine.) We ended up removing 5/16” off the two planks before they were flat. I didn’t mind; every pass made them just a little bit lighter.

Planks all flat and cleaned up. Bonus: I got in a killer bicep workout!

Planks all flat and cleaned up. Bonus: I got in a killer bicep workout!

Almost every step in this entire process involved making some pretty significant decisions that would have a large impact on the final product. Once they were flattened, I needed to figure out how I was going to lay the tables out. If I book-matched them, I would end up with one live edge that sloped downward and one live edge that sloped upward and that would look weird. If I slip-matched them, one end would be significantly wider than the other. With some help from Scott, I decided on the layout pictured above. The slab on the right is sequential to the one on the left, only rotated 180 degrees. This ensured I have downward-sloping live edges on both sides and it also helped even out the width of the two planks.

Then it was time to make the planks just a bit lighter as I removed some edges to prepare them for joinery. I had several design discussions with the client up to that point. We were both on the same page in that we wanted the table design to showcase the wood. So he was OK with leaving some of the sapwood in the middle; he even suggested leaving some of the live edge, as well, creating a gap they might use for power cords for electronic devices.

Using a Festool TS 55 (borrowed from Michael, another friend – I have some really great friends, in case I haven’t mentioned that before) I trimmed off one edge of each plank so I could join them. As discussed, I left as much sapwood as possible and kept a bit of live edge, too.

Though I am not Catholic, I said a Hail Mary before each of these cuts...

Though I am not Catholic, I said a Hail Mary before each of these cuts…

The Festool got me very close to a jointed edge, but it obviously needed more work before it was ready for a glue-up. That left me trying to figure out how to best joint them. The obvious solution was to clamp the slabs to a workbench. But what do you do when your workbench is in the workshop in the basement and your incredibly large and unwieldy planks are in the garage? You improvise, of course!

Ingenuity at its finest...

Ingenuity at its finest…

I grabbed one of the large reclaimed pine beams that will, at some point, be used for a new workbench and brought it out to the garage. I clamped it onto one end of the sawhorses and put an old milk crate (“old” as in strong and sturdy, the kind a college student in the 1990’s might somehow end up with before you could buy cheap ones at Walmart) on the ground between them. Then I lifted the plank up (a bit lighter after some wood removal and some additional drying in my kiln-like garage), rested it on the crate, and clamped it to the beam. The other plank ensured I had enough weight on the sawhorses that nothing moved easily and it kept everything from tipping over.

It worked quite well, I have to admit. I was able to use my recently-refurbished Type 9 No. 7 (a topic for another post) to get it incredibly close. I was so pleased to be able to get this level of accuracy across eight and a half feet of 6/4 walnut!

Checking for gaps with the most accurate square I own.

Checking for gaps with the most accurate square I own.

The final finessing of the joint would be done with a well-tuned and sharpened block plane while the planks were flat and I could easily push them together to check my progress. Obviously, this joint needed to be executed well, so I spent several hours getting it just right.

Edge-jointing shavings...

Edge-jointing shavings…

I’ve never had so many savings from jointing two boards; this is more like the volume of shavings I have after surfacing the boards for a box!

It wasn’t yet time for glue, though. I wanted to do as much work on the two planks while they were still separate because they were easier to maneuver. So at this point I began working the live edges.

After doing a bit of studying and research on live edge tables, I’ve come to the conclusion that they should really be called “lie” edge tables. The live edge you see on a finished table is rarely how the edge really looked when the tree was cut down. In this case, I had some really sharp spikes that were hidden under the bark where new branches were forming and part of one side came to a fragile, almost knife-like edge for several feet. I couldn’t leave it as-is because it was prone to breaking and was even kind of sharp. So I pulled out a variety of tools – some drawknives and spokeshaves – and went to work on making my own live edges.

The tools used to create the lie...

The tools used to create the lie…

After a bit of trial and error, and a lot of work, I ended up with live edges that still looked “real” without having edges that could slice an arm or stab someone in the chest. I also (brilliantly) took the opportunity to create several areas that were close to 90 degrees so I would have places to put my clamps during the glue-up.

It's just a little white lie...

It’s just a little white lie…

In the next part, I’ll cover knot stabilization and the glue-up.

Studio D Conference Table, Part 1

May 4, 2015

(The first post on this topic will be light on pictures, unfortunately. But it is necessary to set up the scene. After that, I’ll have more images for those of you who prefer the visual story.)

I have a tenuous relationship with social media. I try not to approach any of it lightly, knowing that anything you say or post can and will be used against you in a court of social contempt at a later date. I have to counter that, however, with the realization that I need to participate in at least the more common forms of it if I am to market/promote the things I say.

So even though I struggle greatly with the concept of saying things in 140 characters or less, I decided to set up a Twitter account sometime last year. (Conversely, I really love using Instagram; the #IGWoodworkingCommunity there is outstanding.) The real delay in setting it up was in coming up with a name, honestly. These things are important and “thekiltedwoodworker” was apparently too long. But I finally decided on something and… well, I don’t use it very often, but I at least have a presence there now.

A little one, anyway. I use Twitter so infrequently that the app on my phone is constantly trying to draw me into using it with updates about trending topics or what friends of mine are commenting on. It doesn’t work, though; I find the platform to be cumbersome and, like I said, I struggle with presenting a complete idea in 140 characters or less.

But occasionally I get a notification that catches my eye. Back in February, I received this one:

@builtinakilt Looking for a craftsman to build a conference room table. Pls msg me with your contact information
– @StudioDMarCom

This 129 character tweet began my small journey into a whole other world of woodworking I’d not yet touched upon – creating a piece using live edge slabs.

The requirements for the project were fairly short, but not really simple. The client wanted a large conference table, about 9’ x 4’, 6/4 thick, with live edges. They wanted it to be walnut, if at all possible. They had a fixed budget for the entire project. And they wanted it in about one months’ time.

They contacted me because they wanted to give a local artisan a shot at making it before they looked for a more commercial option. They liked my blog and photography and the work I’d posted to-date.

After some long conversations with my wife, to make sure we were both aware of the time that might be involved, I let them know I was up for giving it my best shot, with some concessions. We extended the time frame and I agreed to do my best on the length, but that I would meet the other requirements with no problem.

The first step, and one of the hardest parts of the entire process, was to source the wood. Even though Missouri is rich in walnut trees, trying to locate a slab (or sequential slabs for a two-piece glue up) near me proved to be a challenge. I contacted my normal wood suppliers, but none of them had anything close to 9’ in length, or they didn’t have it in walnut. Apparently there are some companies in the St. Louis area who buy up most of the walnut lumber while it is still in trunk form, waiting to be milled. What slabs I did find were priced so high they would have taken up 80% of the entire budget of the project, which didn’t leave much room for any remaining supplies, much less a profit. Another problem is that most people tend to cut logs right at 8’ when they are milling them. When you start accounting for waste after squaring them up, you’re going to end up with a table that is barely 7’6” long. So I had to expand my search for materials of the right size at the right price.

After most of two weeks, I finally found someone who had two sequential 8’6” slabs, 8/4 rough, that would yield a 4’+ top after glue up. Joe’s prices were right. He seemed very knowledgeable in working with slabs. He even had a pretty solid website. The only problem was that he was outside of Evansville, Indiana, about three hours from Saint Louis! But with few other choices before me, we made plans for me to drive out there to see what he had and, should they look like they’d work, buy some slabs.

Some people might not care for it, but I love fog. I love the mystery and the secretive nature of it. Good thing, too, because I spent more than two hours of my drive there in it! Really, it was quite a pleasant drive.

I swear I was just taking a picture of the fog...

I swear I was just taking a picture of the fog…

I made it to Joe’s farm without any problems. I pulled into his turn-around, parked my car, and got out. We struck up a conversation just outside his barn and I noted during the 10 or so minutes we talked, his eyes kept darting back to my car. He didn’t look very smiley. Finally, I let him off the hook.

Me: You keep looking at my car. You’re wondering if I’m really going to get those two slabs of walnut in there or if I’m just wasting your time, aren’t you?
Joe: Ayup.
Me: Well… let’s go find out, shall we?
Joe: Sure!

We looked the slabs over. They had been cut three years earlier and were run through a kiln last summer, so they were stable and plenty dry. They were big enough (or, at least, the biggest walnut slabs I could find in a 500 mile radius). And they cost me a quarter of what I would have paid in Saint Louis. They would serve my purpose.

We went back outside. I opened the hatch of my Toyota Venza and showed him the cavernous inside that was quite sufficient for hauling the two slabs; I’d even laid most of a 4×8 sheet of luan plywood down to facilitate sliding them into place. He was impressed. When we finally got the two slabs in the car, he was even more impressed.

Walnut slabs and sycamore boards on the ride home.

Walnut slabs and sycamore boards on the ride home.

(Oh, he also had some quartersawn sycamore, which is one of F’s favourite trees, so I picked up two boards of that, as well. I’ll use it to make him some boxes for storing the rocks and treasures he collects.)

Three hours later, my new “biggest challenge” of the build would become evident and remain the biggest challenge for the six weeks that followed – manipulating two 8’6” long 8/4 slabs by myself that probably weighed 180+ lbs each. It occasionally took some creative thinking, but I persevered.

The two slabs adjusting to their new temporary home...

The two slabs adjusting to their new temporary home…

The next part will cover the initial preparation of the slab…

Auxiliary Fence For The Record 043 Plow Plane

April 2, 2015

Record 043 avec curls of shavings but sans fence...

Record 043 avec curls of shavings but sans fence…

I recently spent some time upgrading one of my Record 043 plow planes. Don’t get me wrong, it worked quite well the way it was. But I thought I might improve its function just a bit by adding an auxiliary fence so it had more surface to register off of when I’m plowing grooves.

Ideas form more quickly when I have materials in hand.

Ideas form more quickly when I have materials in hand.

After some thought and careful consideration, I decided to use mahogany for the fence. But that didn’t completely narrow it down for me, unfortunately. First I grabbed a piece of what I thought was Honduran mahogany. But as I played around with it, and then planed a bit of it, I quickly realized it was Spanish Cedar (neither Spanish nor cedar, as I like to say). Though I love working with it, and it was nice quartersawn wood, it’s probably too soft for a fence, so I couldn’t really consider it.

Still, I thought it might be fun to make some comparisons, so I kept the Spanish Cedar (SC) on the bench and grabbed a bit of my Cuban Mahogany (CM) and a (real) piece of Honduran Mahogany (HM). To be fair, I tried to select quartersawn stock for all three pieces. I should note, however, that the SC and HM were probably harvested relatively recently, say within the last five years, while the CM is reclaimed lumber from a connection I have in Puerto Rico and more likely around 50 years old by their estimates.

From left to right: QS Spanish Cedar, QS Cuban Mahogany, and QS Honduran Mahogany.

From left to right: QS Spanish Cedar, QS Cuban Mahogany, and QS Honduran Mahogany.

I prepared each of the pieces of stock with the same plane. It was interesting to note the differences in the wood shavings, considering they are all quartersawn wood in the mahogany family. Most notable was the difficulty I had in taking shavings in the CM; it definitely has a denser, tighter grain structure than the other two.

I finally decided on the Cuban Mahogany and went to work, cutting it to the desired size and thickness. I did use the bandsaw to rip the wood as it was 10x faster and more accurate than I am at ripping at this point; if it wasn’t the Cuban Mahogany, I would have tried it by hand, but my stock of that material is limited, so I don’t mess around with it.

Unfortunately, time got away from me and I sort of forgot to do much by way of “in progress” pictures, though I did take the time to gather up all of the tools I used. Amazing how many tools it takes to complete such a simple addition, isn’t it?

The tools of the project...

The tools of the project…

After letting it sit for a day or two, I realized I wasn’t really done with it.

Fence finished... or maybe not.

Fence finished… or maybe not.

I decided that any time I make something myself like this, I need to personalize it. So I thought I would inlay a little bit of something into the inside face.

I cut thin slices of pure white holly and wonderfully scented West Indies Satinwood (also from my source in Puerto Rico, incidentally) and made a little clover inlay.

Amateur Tip: If you’re working with an unusual shape, try inlaying that shape into something regular first; then when you’re inlaying the piece into your work, it is a more straight-forward process. If you mess up the initial part of the process, you’re just out the thin bit of inlay and you don’t also have to try and correct the error in the project.

Preparing the inlay...

Preparing the inlay…

The little black-handled tool at the bottom of the picture is one of my great $1 purchases at some estate sale. It is stamped “Genuine Ebony” on the handle and I have to assume the blade was larger at some point. It holds a great edge and is perfect for incising where I need both precision and strength. Hopefully I’ll get several more years of use out of it before it sharpens away to nothing…

The Veritas micro-router sees some action on the green...

The Veritas micro-router sees some action on the green…

I sometimes use microfiber cloths as a base when I’m working with small pieces. I found the cloth “sticks” to my bench top quite readily and the small piece of wood I’m working on “sticks” to the cloth just as readily. The only problem is that wood chips stick to it, as well. Haven’t figured that one out yet. Anyway, I used my Veritas micro-router (it’s more than a gimmicky stocking stuffer!) to remove most of the waste, then tidied up with my small ebony-handled umm… micro-knife.

Not all glue-ups are stressful.

Not all glue-ups are stressful.

Glue-ups are always really stressful, aren’t they? Well… not really, when it’s just one little rectangle of inlay in a block of wood no bigger than a notecard. Honestly, it was fun. A while ago, I finished a project and had several long strips of walnut left over. I cut them into smaller pieces and added some PSA cork to one face. I keep them in a coffee can near the bench and pull them out when I’m clamping for a glue-up or when I’m putting something between bench vise and bench dog and don’t want little grid marks in the end grain. Very handy, although I have a huge roll of PSA cork I had to store somewhere because I couldn’t find it in anything but a large3’x5’ sheet.

After setting my clamp-up monstrosity aside “for 24 hours to cook” (never understood that phrase… I’ve never cooked anything for 24 hours, and I make most of the meals in our house), I unclamped it and used a block plane to level the inlay. You don’t want to sand holly, if at all possible, when it is inlaid in darker wood. The sanding dust from the darker wood will muddy up the holly and you’ll be properly chuffed by the whole ordeal.

Leveling the inlay...

Leveling the inlay…

Assuming the fence is going to see some wear (it is a fence on a plow plane, after all), I didn’t put any petroleum distillate finish on it, like I have on the rest of it (gunstock oil). Instead, I opted for the polissoir and some bees wax. I think the end result looks rather smart.

The completed inlay...

The completed inlay…

In fact, I liked the end result so much, I decided to put auxiliary fences on three other planes in my shop. One of them, my Veritas Skewed Rebate plane, got completed in short order because I happened to have a nice piece of Rosewood with some sapwood in it I wanted to use.

Two down, two to go!

Two down, two to go!

The other two, a second Record 043 and a Record 044, stalled a bit at wood selection, then another project came up on my radar and they got sidelined temporarily. But I’ll get to them soon enough. Hopefully I’ll remember to photograph the process a bit more for you.

TKW

‘Virtuoso’ Now Available for Pre-publication Ordering

April 1, 2015

thekiltedwoodworker:

You’ve stared at the poster in the bathroom at Woodcraft and spent hours wondering how one man could create such an amazing piece of functional art. Now experience the Studley Toolchest like never before. Get the book. See the Toolchest in person. Try to get your nose so close to it that Don Williams gives you a patient-yet-stern look that obviously means “back off”. Then smile sweetly and hand him the book to autograph. Then you can look at the Studley Toolchest in your own bathroom!

Originally posted on Lost Art Press:

Studley-cover-2(3)You can now order “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Don Williams from the Lost Art Press store. The book is $49 and will ship in mid-May.

Orders received before May 13, 2015, will receive free domestic shipping. The first 1,000 orders will receive a nice commemorative postcard featuring a beautiful shot of the open tool cabinet shot by Narayan Nayar.

When you order, you will have the option to pick up your copy at Handworks in Amana, Iowa., on May 15-16, or have the book shipped to you. All shipping will occur after Handworks.

Retailers for ‘Virtuoso’
While we are certain that many of our retailers will stock “Virtuoso,” we do not know which ones yet will opt to carry it. When we have that information in the next couple weeks, I will definitely post it here.

Why No Digital…

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My Tool Collection, Part 2: The Preston 1393s And Its Clone…

March 26, 2015

Ad text for the 1393s from the 1909 Preston Tool Catalog (reprinted by Astragal Press)

Ad text for the 1393s from the 1909 Preston Tool Catalog (reprinted by Astragal Press)

Like most things in life, it’s best to start at the beginning, so that’s how I’ll handle the first real post of my beading tool collection (where I don’t go off on other woodworkers; sorry about that, tool hoarders; still friends, right?). And like most of my favourite tools, my beading tool collection begins with Patrick Leach…

Sometimes I wonder where I would be financially if I’d never heard of the man from Massachusetts or his website. But then I would have to wonder where I would be spiritually, as well, so I don’t wonder about it too much, if I can help it. He and I chat fairly frequently now, in fact, and some of our conversations still begin with me asking, “Is this still available?”

Anyway, early in 2009, on the first Monday of March, I was scanning the latest Tool List mailing and the description of a Preston tool jumped out at me. I looked at the image before me and was enthralled, to say the least, by the small japanned tool on the screen. That was possibly the first time I’d ever contacted Patrick, asking if something was still available, come to think of it.

The 1393s as I first saw it in the monthly Tool List, along with some foreshadowing...

The 1393s as I first saw it in the monthly Tool List, along with some foreshadowing…

A short while later, I opened a package from MA and had an instant connection with this small, pelvis-shaped beading tool with one lone cutter. It felt perfect in my hands and I couldn’t wait to try it out on a piece of wood to see what the profile looked like. With just a quick flattening of the two faces of the cutter, it started working again, probably just as well as it had 100 years earlier.

The venerable Preston 1393s with complex profile completed in walnut...

The venerable Preston 1393s with complex profile completed in walnut…

Recently, I had a brief chat with someone who said they could duplicate the six cutters that originally came with the 1393s. He also mentioned being able to cast bronze copies of the tool, as well. I’m not sure about the bronze copies (unless enough of you are interested in such a thing), but I am definitely going to talk to him about duplicating the cutters, as displayed in the Preston Tool Catalogue from 1909 (reprinted by Astragal press and available from Tools For Working Wood).

Ad image for the 1393s and the cutters that came with it from the reprint of the 1909 catalogue.

Ad image for the 1393s and the cutters that came with it from the reprint of the 1909 catalogue.

The one original cutter that was in the tool when I bought it is still my favourite profile ever made off of a beading tool. But I still wouldn’t mind having the others, to see how useful they are.

********

Something else happened when I held that tool for the first time, though. It triggered a memory, a thought, about a similar looking tool I’d seen before. It was slightly different – bronze, instead of japanned cast iron – but the shape of it was pretty much the same. I wondered about it for days without coming up with anything, so I started digging through my file folders of ideas and wants and woodworking things that interested me (er… doesn’t everyone have file folders like this?) and found it! It was part of a page off a website (that did not contain the product numbers, unfortunately) I’d printed out for a wish list of sorts. Turns out it was a tool sold by Woodcraft; they had it listed as a Bronze Beading Tool and indicated it was a copy of an old tool they had in their collection. Oh, I know what THAT tool is now! Obviously this obsession has been welling up inside me for some time.

Ad image for the Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, circa 2004.

Ad image for the Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, circa 2004.

I jumped on-line to see if they still had it listed. They didn’t. (They’d stopped selling it back in 2004, more than five years earlier.) I did a quick search on my favourite auction site, with no positive results, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I then used my Google-fu to start looking for any reference of it on-line. My Google-fu was good! Nowadays, you can search website archives on web.archive.org, but I didn’t have that option back then. Fortunately for me, Woodcraft did not delete their old webpages; they just unlinked them from their main website. As a result, I was able to get to the original webpage and locate the Item Number for that tool as well as the replacement cutters they sold for it.

I took that information and sent a message to Woodcraft Customer Service to see if they could check inventory at all of their stores for the two items, hoping by some chance of luck one of them might still have it in stock.

My luck stayed with me. Sam, from Woodcraft Tech, responded a few hours later, indicating he’d found the bronze beading tool listed in the inventory at two stores. What’s more, he said he’d found two other stores that indicated they had the replacement cutters in their inventory.
I thanked Sam for his time (I still remember his name, obviously, to this day) and called those stores right away. Was it my good fortune that all four stores had the item in question in their inventory? Or was it my bad luck? My pocketbook and I would give you different answers.

I checked my woodworking funds and saw I could just swing it, so… I bought all four items. Within a few weeks (one of the items came from Hawaii), I had two brand new bronze beading tools and two sets of replacement cutters, all in their original packaging.

The Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, showing both fences, with a single bead profile made in African mahogany.

The Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, showing both fences, with a single bead profile made in African mahogany.

The beading tool bug had bitten me. Probably several times, even.

To Be Continued… in Part Three, where my woodworking fund’s worst nightmare came true when I met Patrick Leach in person at Woodworking In America 2010. I remember this event quite clearly because it was just three months after my son was born and I’d spent most of the three days in complete disbelief that my wife let me go in the first place. There, Mr. Leach himself put my third beading tool straight into my hand…

TKW

Post Script: Oh, before anyone asks, I no longer have two complete sets of the Woodcraft bronze beading tool. As I said before, I’m a collector, not a hoarder. I sold one of the sets to a friend of mine, for what I paid for the tools plus shipping. I have it on pretty good faith that Mike will both use and take care of these tools, so I feel no regrets in getting them into someone else’s hands.

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